Rhododendron telmateium Balf. f. & W. W. Sm.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Rhododendron telmateium' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-telmateium/). Accessed 2024-06-19.



  • Rhododendron diacritum Balf.f. & W.W.Sm.
  • Rhododendron drumonium Balf.f. & W.W.Sm.
  • Rhododendron idoneum Balf.f. & W.W.Sm.

Other taxa in genus


(pl. calyces) Outer whorl of the perianth. Composed of several sepals.
The inner whorl of the perianth. Composed of free or united petals often showy.
Lowest part of the carpel containing the ovules; later developing into the fruit.
Traditional English name for the formerly independent state known to its people as Bod now the Tibet (Xizang) Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. The name Xizang is used in lists of Chinese provinces.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
(botanical) Contained within another part or organ.
Lance-shaped; broadest in middle tapering to point.
Generally an elongated structure arising from the ovary bearing the stigma at its tip.
(syn.) (botanical) An alternative or former name for a taxon usually considered to be invalid (often given in brackets). Synonyms arise when a taxon has been described more than once (the prior name usually being the one accepted as correct) or if an article of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature has been contravened requiring the publishing of a new name. Developments in taxonomic thought may be reflected in an increasing list of synonyms as generic or specific concepts change over time.


Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Rhododendron telmateium' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-telmateium/). Accessed 2024-06-19.

Much-branched, prostrate or erect shrub, to 1m. Leaves 0.3–1.2(–1.4) × 0.2–0.7 cm, narrowly elliptic to rotund, apex acute to rounded, strongly mucronate, lower surface covered with overlapping scales, the majority of which are pale gold to reddish brown, usually with few to many darker scales. Flowers 1–3 per inflorescence; calyx 0.5–3 mm, lobes often unequal deltoid to rounded; corolla lavender or rose-pink to purple, broadly funnel-shaped, scaly outside, 6–14 mm; stamens 10× as long as corolla; ovary scaly, style of varying length, glabrous or pubescent towards base. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)

Distribution  China Yunnan, SW Sichuan

Habitat 2,500–5,000 m

RHS Hardiness Rating H5

Conservation status Least concern (LC)

Taxonomic note R. telmateium is allied to R. nivale but differs in the sparse covering of darker scales on the leaf undersurface. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)

An evergreen shrub of erect habit up to 3 ft high; young shoots very scurfy. Leaves elliptic-lanceolate, tapered about equally to both ends, 14 to 12 in. long, 110 to 316 in. wide, dull dark green above, pale brown below, very scaly on both sides; stalk 116 in. long. Flowers solitary, in pairs or threes, opening in April or May. Calyx about 116 in. long, scaly. Corolla widely funnel-shaped, 12 in. wide, five-lobed, rosy purple, the lobes more or less scaly up the centre outside. Stamens normally ten, sometimes less, downy towards the base. Ovary scaly; style glabrous, overtopping the stamens. (s. Lapponicum)

Native of S.W. Szechwan and bordering parts of Yunnan; discovered by Forrest and introduced by him from the Chungtien plateau in 1914. It belongs to a group of the Lapponicum series in which the undersides of the leaves have a close covering of brownish or greyish scales dotted with darker, larger, stalked scales. It is a very hardy species, suitable for the rock garden, but not among the best of the series.

A rhododendron scarcely differing from R. telmateium was found by Ludlow and Sherriff in a dry zone of the Tibetan Himalaya.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

R. diacritum and R. drumonium, mentioned under this species, are included in it by the Philipsons; R. idoneum Balf.f. & W.W. Sm. is another synonym (Rev. Lapp., pp. 47–50). As now understood, the species is of wider range than stated, occurring in central Yunnan as well as in the northern and north-western parts of the province and bordering Szechwan. The leaves of R. telmateium are never much over 12 in. long and often only half that length, varying in shape from elliptic to almost orbicular. The species in variable in the length of the style, which may be longer or shorter than the stamens, or of about the same length. The scales of the undersides of the leaves are closely set, pale gold or light brown, usually with a scattering of darker scales. In common with many other members of the subsection it is variable in habit but usually erect in cultivated plants, to 2 or 3 ft. A well-marked character is that the leaves are always distinctly mucronate.

It was mentioned on page 783 that a rhododendron scarcely differing from R. telmateium was found by Ludlow and Sherriff. This was R. bulu Hutch., described from a specimen collected by Kingdon Ward in south-east Tibet. It is indeed very closely allied to R. telmateium, differing mainly in its longer leaves. It is not in cultivation.

R diacritum Balf. f. & W. W. Sm.

R. pycnocladum Balf. f. & W. W. Sm

Very near to R. telmateium, but with the leaves oblong or oblong-elliptic. The type is from the Chungtien plateau.

R drumonium Balf. f. & Ward

Leaves similar to those of R. diacritum. Style slightly shorter than the stamens. Otherwise very like R. telmateium. The type, collected by Kingdon Ward below the Chungtien plateau, was a dwarf carpet-forming shrub, but Forrest’s 13768 from the same area came from plants 2 to 2{1/2} ft high.